When we first decided to do this site, it was with senior citizens in mind in general, and Alzheimer's families in particular. During the course of the study, however, we found that this information is important to everyone, or at least those of us who are mortal. You arrive at the arrangement process at a distinct disadvantage for several reasons, among them:

Know in advance that your funeral bill will sometimes depend upon what you drive up in, how you are dressed, and whatever financial information the funeral director and his staff can muster on you and the deceased. Some homes send their sales force to sales training courses wherein they study methods of determining your financial status. Some spend hours just learning women's accessories and what they cost. You will start to divulge information immediately, beginning with "How many copies of the Death Certificate will you need? You'll need at least one for every life insurance policy the deceased has in force, and that speaks volumes about how much funeral you can afford.

EXAMPLE: A widow in Houston, Texas went into a corporate-owned funeral home to arrange her late husband's funeral. She took with her some of her late husband's papers, including a life insurance policy with a face-value of $12,000. She walked out an hour later with a funeral arrangement that cost $12,000, exactly.

In The Affordable Funeral we have put every sales ploy and scam the 700+ former employees of the funeral industry revealed (plus some we've discovered on our own), and some of them will amaze you. It is often a cold business, but not without the occasional good soul. Do some investigative work, or get in touch with your local memorial society and you may learn who these good souls are. Otherwise, you may find yourself at the mercy of people for whom your loved one's funeral means a vacation in Maui, rather than a final act of respect and love.

That said, consider this. The funeral director and his staff have an often-unpleasant job. They must collect remains in every imaginable condition, and rarely charge more for fetching in a decomposed or badly mutilated body, no matter the weather or hour or day. They must also deal with deaths by highly contagious diseases, not to mention dealing with often distraught and sometimes unreasonable relatives of the deceased. They deserve to make a good living, and some do . . . an amazingly good living in the case of some funeral home OWNERS! At a recent national meeting, for instance, a topic of discussion was changes in federal tax laws. One of the members said, "So what? That (particular law) doesn't kick-in until over $200,000.00 a year." To which one of his cronies replied, "So who among us doesn't make $200,000 a year?" Of those who raised their hands, most were employees rather than employERs. Much as is the case with pharmacists, funeral directors tend to start at a respectable wage, yet stagnate shortly thereafter. Considering the hours they must work, most earn a decent living but nothing outlandish so long as they work for others.

New Help on Holding Costs Down

Starting with the late Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death, there have been several notable attempts to alert the public to the excesses of the death merchants in the funeral industry. This is merely another. Since Ms. Mitford's opus, however, there have been several new developments that can help the average family preserve resources for the survivors, rather than lining the undertakers' (and the undertakers' share-holders') pockets. Here are a few of the more noteworthy.

Co-op Funeral Homes

This is exactly what it sounds like; a community or group of concerned individuals banding together to set up their own funeral home. They determine salaries of the staff and costs of each product and service. As of this writing there are several out there functioning well, and at considerably more-realistic prices than their 'for-profit' counterparts. There is even funding available for communities wishing to establish one of their own. Contact us for details, phone numbers and addresses.

Discount Funeral Homes

There are a goodly number of funeral directors, notably in lower-income areas, who are genuinely concerned with escalating funeral costs (roughly 400% of the national inflation rate, annually) and are taking steps to make goods and services more affordable. As you might imagine, they are meeting with stearn opposition from the corporate-owned and greedier independant funeral homes. Some have been forced out of business by the others telling their suppliers "It's either THEM or US." and shutting off their source of caskets and vaults from major suppliers. Here the manufacturers must bear a large part of the responsibility, as well as the public who should be supporting these efforts.

Note: Beware of a company called (of all things!) AFFORDABLE FUNERALS. They are owned by S.C.I. and, from what I've seen of their price list, the only thing especially affordable about them is their name!

Funeral Consultants, Shoppers, and Brokers

This is a new phenomenon which grew out of the florist and catering industries on the West Coast. For a nominal fee, these specialists will assist you in arranging a funeral. They can do the 'shopping' portion for you, keep on top of local prices and customs, and -- perhaps most importantly of all -- help you steer clear of obvious rip-offs. Some can locate burial sites below market price, caskets and outer containers at a fraction of retail price, and generally make your life much easier. Some are ex-employees of the funeral industry who have developed a conscience, some are self-taught concerned citizens, and some have been trained by our program.

Fees vary from FREE, in the case of some ex-ministers and hospice nurses, to as much as $650 flat rate, with a guarantee they'll save you much more. Thus far, our consultants are averaging saving their clients $2,000 - $3,000 per funeral, at an average total fee of $350. Granted, much of what they do you could do yourself with just the information available on this site, from memorial societies, and in our book, but for those who would as soon avoid the sales pressure, hassle, and time required to adequately shop for the goods and services required, they can be money well spent.

Please be aware that consultants can NOT 'arrange' a funeral per se unless they happen to be a licensed funeral director. What they CAN do is similar to what a good employment agency does. Before the agency sends you off on an interview, first they put you through a 'dress rehearsal' then critique areas in which you were weak. A good consultant will walk you through each step of the arrangement process, showing you your options at each step and giving you an idea of what each will cost, so that when you make your arrangement visit you will know what you want and how to stay within your allotted budget.

If you, or someone you know, would be interested in starting a funeral consulting agency, please contact us for free information on our new program. State laws on such things vary widely due to the funeral industry's brilliant lobbying efforts (in some states, for instance, only a licensed funeral director is allowed to SELL a casket or outer container, though in EVERY STATE YOU CAN BUY ONE FROM WHOMEVER YOU CHOOSE), but this is generally no problem to get around. A recent Federal court decision in Tennessee may soon change restrictive laws in these states.

This could be an excellent job for seniors, single mothers, or anyone else who has a genuine concern for people's welfare. It is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme, so no wild-eyed MLM-types need apply. We guard our sources carefully and, at the first sign of mismanagement or mistreatment of clients, will withdraw our support. It isn't particularly fun, since you must deal with people at their most-bereft, but can be satisfying AND rewarding on several levels.

Start-up for a business of this nature can be as little as a few hundred dollars, depending on your situation. We currently have a Funeral Consultant's Start-up Package that will take you through the set-up of such a business from researching your market to conducting your first consult. The package is laid out HERE, with a brief explaination of what all is included.

For more information, E-Mail us with your name and a brief statement of your experience and expectations.

Discount or Direct Casket Sales

As mentioned earlier, the casket alone can account for nearly half a funeral's cost. Some independant funeral directors and non-funeral director entrapreneurs have opened casket stores which provide the same quality products at far more-reasonable prices. This is the European approach, if you will. In some countries in Europe you can buy a casket in department stores, just as you would a lawnmower or clothing. They are meeting with mixed success, largely due to funeral homes putting out misinformation on their products. For the moment most of these are strictly local affairs, catering to largely urban populations, but through the F.H.P. we are attempting to unite them to provide coast-to-coast and even Canadian sources for everyone.

Attached to this site we have put together a catalog of what we consider the best caskets, urns, and (coming soon!) outer containers available through these independant manufacturers and sales outlets. While we do not sell caskets ourselves, you can select a model and call, fax, write, e-mail, or phone us with your selection and we can put you in touch with a provider in your area. Again citing a recent example, a lady in Los Angeles called for a price comparrison on a popular up-scale casket her funeral home had priced at over $6,000.00, and we had her one delivered inside of four hours -- from the SAME warehouse the funeral home would have gotten it! -- for $650. Some rural areas may incur an additional shipping fee, but the total cost should be much less than the 400%+ you'd pay from a funeral home. To visit our online catalog, CLICK HERE.

Should you be interested in opening a 'casket store' anywhere in the U.S., get in touch. If you are sincere, we'll be happy to provide the suppliers. Be forewarned, however, that a major draw-back to this from the manufacturers' standpoint is the same problem faced by discount funeral homes; pressure from the other funeral homes to halt sales to the general public other than through them. They have been known to boycott manufactuers who sell direct or through discount outlets. Luckily we have several who sell direct to the public already, as well as some great foreign-shore companies who couldn't care less who buys from them. A workable stock of caskets could cost you $2,500-$25,000 to start, and the more outlets that open the greater the chance of success through cooperateive buying and advertising and the lower shipping costs.

Order Book ~ E-mail us your questions/comments
Home Page ~ About FHP ~ First Step ~ Funeral Homes ~ Casket Smarts
Cemetery Shopping ~ Monuments ~ Funeral Brokers, etc ~ Suggested Links